Who’s Sorry Now

Lady Adelaide Mystery, Book 2

June 1, 2019

London, England 1925

A Russian prince. A wealthy heir. An impoverished earl’s daughter. Which one will make an untimely exit from the London social scene?

Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Devenand Hunter finds himself in the middle of a series of upper-class deaths in London. Bright young people are being extinguished in their favorite night spots, from a sleazy jazz club to the Savoy ballroom. Dev knows just the person to help him navigate the treacherous society waters: Lady Adelaide Compton, a marquess’ daughter and widow of a Great War hero. Unfortunately, he has put her in jeopardy once before, nearly leading him to turn in his warrant card.

But when her sister Cee is nearly one of the victims, Addie turns to Mr. Hunter, offering her help… and it soon becomes clear that the two of them working together again could lead to much more than merely solving crime.

“Rupert’s back! And Lady Adelaide still wants to kill him—only he’s already dead. If you like a clever mystery, a handsome ghost, and the far-from-bereaved widow who can’t find the elusive killer without Rupert’s help, Maggie Robinson’s Who’s Sorry Now? is just your cup of English murder. With a large dollop of fun floating on top.”
— Charles Todd, author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries and the Bess Crawford mysteries

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ISBN-13: 9781464211379 • ISBN-10: 146421137X

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Prologue

New York City, New Year’s Eve 1924

Gay, gay, gay.

Or so some people might say. The music was blaring, the illegal champagne and other forbidden liquids and substances were flowing, and Lady Adelaide Compton was bored stiff, sitting alone at the table. Her sister Cee and their new friends were dancing as if tomorrow and its resultant hangover would never come, but Addie knew better.

There were always consequences to bad behavior.

Take her late husband, Major Rupert Charles Cressleigh Compton, Great War flying ace and even greater philanderer. Last summer he was forced to come back from the dead (and probable eternal damnation) to redeem himself by performing a good deed or two by assisting in a murder investigation.

And then he had disappeared.

He was, as far as Addie knew, still dead, and mercifully absent from New York City. And she had looked. Around every corner of the bustling streets. Behind the voile curtains of the glamorous Fifth Avenue apartment in which she and her family were staying. Under the bed of the same. The entire voyage across the Atlantic had been fraught with potential Rupert-sightings. Every handsome mustachioed man in a dinner jacket was a potential wraith, which made Addie understandably nervous since there were so many of them. One expected one’s late and unlamented husband to remain cozy and confined in his expensive satin-lined coffin and not pop up at inconvenient interludes.

However, he had saved her life, and she supposed she should be grateful.

But she’d be even more grateful if she never saw him again.

The lamps in the night club flickered, and then went out altogether. There were a few shrieks, but light spilled from the hundreds s of votive candles in the ballroom, and the jazz band never missed a note. Addie felt a hand on her exposed back—her beaded black dress was modest in the front but quite naughty in the rear, dipping nearly to her waist.

It was a cold hand.

She’d felt that hand before.

Rupert! She’d just been thinking of him. Had her random thoughts somehow summoned him? If so, she’d prefer to turn off her brain completely, but how? Her mind did have an alarming tendency to wander.

“It’s only I. Again. Don’t be frightened,” Rupert whispered.

“Easy for you to say!” she hissed back. The noise in the club was infernal, but someone might hear them anyway. Or hear her, and think she was losing her mind once more. She’d been caught too many times last August “talking to herself.”

Oh, lord, was he here because someone going to die? That was certainly no way to start the new year.

“Not as far as I know,” he said, his voice low and smooth.

The blasted man was reading her mind. If only he’d possessed that skill before he died, things might have turned out differently in their marriage. A truly understanding man was a rare commodity indeed. In fact, Addie wasn’t sure she knew of any, with perhaps one exception.

Rupert cleared his throat to reengage her attention. “This seems to be a minor intervention on my part. The notice to rescue you was very sudden—I’m not really prepared, and I had my own party to go to, you know.” He sounded a trifle peeved.

Like the nightclub, Addie was in the dark regarding Rupert’s post-life schedule. The Fellow Upstairs, as Rupert referred to him, had an unusual sense of humor. Keeping Rupert from entering the gates of Heaven by assigning him to be Addie’s guardian angel for what seemed now to be an apparently indeterminate period of time was extremely annoying. Rupert must be anxious to move on, and Addie had hoped last August’s antics had assured him of his proper place in the afterlife, wherever that might be.

She had her own opinion where he deserved to go, but perhaps she should be more charitable.

It was difficult to see him in the flickering light, but he appeared to be wearing the same bespoke Saville Row suit she’d buried him in, his maroon tie and matching pocket square still crisp. His moustache had grown back, and there was no denying he was amazingly attractive even if he was amazingly dead.

“Why are you here?”

“The joint’s about to be raided. Think of the headlines: British Beauties Behind Bars. Society Dames Detained. Your sainted mother would have a fit if you and Cee wound up in the pokey with the hoi polloi.”

Addie had no idea what a pokey was, but she could infer with the best of them. “Now?”

“The buttons are upstairs even as we speak. Do you know they carry bean-shooters in this country?”

“Speak English, Rupert!”

“I am, my dear. The American version. This is quite a place, what? Rather marvelous in its own grubby way.”

Addie wondered how long he’d been in New York, but apparently time was of the essence if she didn’t wish to find herself on the front page of every rag in the city, so she didn’t ask. “How can we get out of here?”

“They’ve got all the exits blocked. When they turn on the lights, it’ll be curtains. Go get Cee and meet me in the men’s loo.”

The men’s loo! Rupert dissolved before she had a chance to question him further. Well, if caught in the men’s toilet, she could always pretend to be a building inspector, although beaded chiffon was an odd choice of uniform.

Addie waved wildly at Cee, but of course went unnoticed in the shadowy room. She gathered up their purses, gingerly ducked around gyrating couples on the dance floor, and grabbed Cee’s flailing arm.

“Quick! It’s—it’s an emergency!”

Her sister stopped mid-step. “What’s wrong?” Her partner didn’t seem to notice Cee’s ceasing and continued to Black Bottom his bottom off.

“You’ve got to come with me. No time for questions.”

Cee at one time had been Addie’s little minion at their childhood home, Broughton Park. She’d marched off to battle in whichever direction she was sent, put crickets in their governess’ bed, watered down the butler-before-Forbes’ secret stash of wine (and drinking a little, if truth be told), and performed other nefarious tasks too numerous to mention. But Cee at twenty-five was entirely different and far less malleable. She opened her mouth to protest, so Addie simply dragged her away with every ounce of strength she possessed and shoved her down a black hallway into the Gents’.

Fortunately an electric sconce stuttered inside so they weren’t completely at the mercy of the night. It must be on a separate circuit from the ballroom, Addie thought, pleased with her scientific deduction even in the face of catastrophe.

Cee’s own face was a vision. Half-intrigued by the sudden location and half-indignant, she gave Addie a shove. “What the hell, Adelaide! I was enjoying myself with Roddy!” Roderick Huntington Smythe, III was just one of the American swains who’d circled Cee once the Marchioness of Broughton’s daughters had arrived on their shores. Addie had had a few swains herself, even though technically she was still in mourning.

“We have to get out of this place. It’s about to be raided.”

“What? How do you know?”

“A little birdie told me.” Addie looked about the room. There were four urinals and two sinks, but no sign of the birdie.

“I’m behind the cubicle door,” came the sepulchral voice. “There’s a window over the crapper. I’ll boost you up.”

“This way,” Addie said, sounding far more confident than she felt. She entered the stall, and there was her old nemesis, appearing far too cheerful considering the situation.

“I’ve already unlocked the window. All you have to do is shimmy out, hail a taxi, and Bob’s your uncle.”

Addie felt a pang for the fur coats they were leaving behind, but needs must. “You go first, Cee. I’ll help you.”

Cee looked up to a window that seemed impossibly high. “You expect me to climb up on a filthy toilet bowl and somehow crawl out that tiny window?”

“Yes, I do. Don’t be squeamish. At least you have shoes on.” And lovely they were, too, brand-new, with brilliants scattered on the satin.

Just then the loo door banged open, and a red-faced man entered, looking much the worse for wear. “I say, ladies, have I the wrong room?” he slurred.

“No, we do,” Addie said brightly. “Go on about your business. We won’t look.”

“Better than seeing pink elephants, I s’pose,” the man said, dealing clumsily with his trousers. Addie turned and resolutely kept her eyes on the spangles of Cee’s evening gown, wondering how she was expected to push her sister up the several feet required for freedom.

Rupert took care of that, tossing Cee through the window as she cried out in surprise. “You next, my dear.”

Addie found herself hurtling through the air and squeezing through the narrow casing, breaking two fingernails and no doubt bruising a hip. Perhaps she should go on a slimming regimen in the new year, though one did hope not to find oneself in a similar window-shimmying predicament in the future.

The shrill whistles and screams inside were audible from the street, and Addie breathed a sigh of relief at the very close call.

Rupert rolled out of the building as well and dusted himself off. “Happy New Year!” He gave Addie a quick kiss, which was not precisely unpleasant but very, very strange. She couldn’t even squeak in protest since Cee was so near, grumbling about the hole in her stocking.

He waggled a white finger at her. “Now, you be careful. I’m perfectly prepared to keep you out of danger in England—in fact, it’s my, um, sacred duty under my current contract. Orders from Upstairs, don’t you know. All part of my rehabilitation plan to avoid the fiery flames of you-know-where. But this trip across the Atlantic has taken quite a lot out of me. Absolutely no visit to Chicago and that Capone person while you are over here. No train to California to chat up film stars, either. I forbid it.”

As if Rupert could forbid her anything anymore. Addie was about to remind him in no uncertain terms, but that felt somewhat ungrateful after his latest effort to protect her. Plus, Cee would hear her and think she was crazy.

Blast. Addie resolved that she and Cee would lead lives of utmost boring decorum during the rest of their stay in America. It was, after all, only a few more months to run, and they’d be home by the second week of March. How hard could it be to avoid mobsters and mayhem and movie actors?

And Rupert’s reappearance.

“But I do have an inkling I’ll be seeing you when you get back home.” He blew her another kiss and vanished.

Oh no. Was Rupert going to play knight errant wherever and whenever as part of his “sacred duty?” For the rest of what she hoped would be her long and unremarkable life? She’d go mad! Why couldn’t he stay dead?

And did he mean Addie was going to be mixed up in yet another murder? Unhappy new year ahead!